Hacking the Kinect

From the moment the Microsoft Kinect was announced I knew it would make a great new toy, but not as an addition to the Xbox 360.  Like my iPhone, the Xbox 360, the Wii, and practically every other piece of technology in my home, the Kinect was just asking to be hacked.

The Kinect has 3 cameras, two of which are 3D depth sensors and the third which is a simple RGB camera for pictures and video.  It also sports a multi-array microphone that lines the bottom of the unit.  Finally, it adjusts it’s own view of you via a motorized base. Instead of getting deep into tech specs and techno jabber here I will simply refer you to the Wikipedia entry for the Kinect which contains both Microsoft information and information gleaned through 3rd party and hacker interaction with the device: Wiki link here.

Why you should Hack your Kinect:

I never really need a reason to attempt to hack or reverse engineer technology, it’s just my nature.  If you actually need a legitimate reason to hack your Kinect check out these videos:

Following videos by Oliver Kreylos
This guy is a kick to watch. Talk about getting into your work!
Kreylos wrote his own 3D reconstruction code from scratch in C++, using his own Vrui VR toolkit for 3D rendering management and interaction. He was able to measure the reconstructed objects and show that they exactly match their real-life counterparts.



Here’s a link to the Kinect Sensor on Amazon. You can buy it used for around $85 and save yourself $65!

Well, I could ramble on all day about how cool it is to hack the Kinect or we could just do it!  So, let’s get rolling!

How to Hack the Kinect:

Download the latest Middleware, SDK and driver versions in the following order:

  1. OpenNI v1.0.0.25
  2. SensorKinect
  3. NITE Middleware v1.3.0.18 – See Key below

NOTE – The latest version of OpenNI is incompatble with the current version of SensorKinect. In order for this tutorial to work, you must download the exact files specified above.

When installing the NITE Middleware, insert this key0KOIk2JeIBYClPWVnMoRKn5cdY4=

In order to get the PrimeSense examples running properly:

1. Copy the XML files from “c:\Program Files\Prime Sense\Sensor\SampleXMLs\NITE\Data” into “c:\Program Files\Prime Sense\NITE\Data” (overwrite files)

2. Copy the XML files from “c:\Program Files\Prime Sense\Sensor\SampleXMLs\OPENNI\Data” into “c:\Program Files\OpenNI\Data” (overwrite files)

From your start menu, locate the OpenNI or Prime Sense programs and try out some of the samples below.

Attachment Size
sample-scene.xml 580 bytes
sample-tracking.xml 607 bytes
sample-user.xml 579 bytes

Congrats!  You just hacked the Kinect!!

What to do next? Have a look at Kinect Ultra, KinEmote and FAAST and have fun!


Great web resources for more Kinect Hacking:






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About Jonathan G. Nelson

Jonathan G. Nelson is the editor-in-chief and owner of NERD TREK. He is also owner/publisher at AAW Games / AdventureAWeek.com, a tabletop gaming company based in Snoqualmie, WA. Connect with Jonathan via Facebook.